It certainly seemed that way on Friday evening as the Cards opened a three-game series at Busch with the last-place Mets. St. Louis had a half-game lead with only three left; they had the momentum of an eight-game winning streak while the Mets were in an eight-game losing streak. Bob Gibson was ready, riding a personal streak of nine consecutive complete games during which his record had been 8--1.
Late that afternoon Cardinals owner Gussie Busch came to the dressing room and offered Keane a contract with a substantial raise to manage next year. Keane said that would have to wait until the season was over. All week there had been rumors that Busch had already signed Leo Durocher for 1965. Busch denied it, but many people did not believe him.
Busch sat in his front-row box next to the Cardinals' dugout during the game, leaning forward with eager anticipation. Like everyone else he expected the Cards to push the Mets around—but they never did. Little Al Jackson pitched a masterful game to beat Gibson 1--0. When the game was over, the Cardinals sat quietly in the dressing room and listened to the final outs of Cincinnati's 4--3 loss. There were no cheers, just the sigh of relief that comes from the occupants of a car when they luckily avoid a major accident.
The accident happened on Saturday afternoon in St. Louis. On the first pitch of the game McCarver dropped a foul fly that allowed the Mets' Bobby Klaus to stay at the plate. Klaus then hit an easy line drive that Brock misplayed in left field, and before the inning was over the Mets had a four-run lead. They won 15--5. St. Louis made five errors. The Reds did not play. The teams were tied for first.
Brock put his head alongside Flood's in the dressing room. "It will be different tomorrow," he said. "Somebody's been putting Yankees into the Mets' uniforms. Tomorrow they'll play like the Mets again."
Flood sipped a beer and said, "Yeah, but tomorrow we better not play like the Indianapolis Clowns again." Then he walked over to Curt Simmons, the scheduled Cardinals pitcher for the last game of the regular season. "Please, baby," he said.
That night Mike Shannon told Judy to be ready to see the Cards clinch on Sunday. Javier, whose left hip had been injured in a close play at first, was in bed with ice packs. Dal Maxvill, Javier's probable replacement, played with his two young children and thought back to May, when he was so discouraged at being farmed out that he was ready to quit baseball. Groat could hardly sleep in his room at the Bel Air Motel and paced the floor almost all night. As he paced, he heard the footsteps of other Cardinals through the thin walls.
Sunday morning Groat awoke logy, Javier's hip felt terrible, and as Shannon was getting ready to go to work, his 15-month-old daughter, Peggy, spilled a cup of boiling water on her arm and he had to take her to the hospital. Maxvill arrived at the stadium early and was told by Keane that he would be playing second base, and Kathleen Boyer, Ken's wife, got tied up in traffic and missed part of the first inning.
Nothing much happened in that first inning anyway, but in their half of the fifth the Cards won the pennant with three runs—driven in by Maxvill, Boyer and Groat. They added three in the sixth and three more in the eighth, and when McCarver caught a pop foul to end the game, the score was 11--5. Simmons had been relieved by Gibson, and Gibson by Schultz, but it was an easy victory. Meanwhile, the Reds lost 10--0 to Philadelphia. St. Louis was World Series--bound.
As the Cards poured champagne all over themselves in the clubhouse, 3,000 people gathered under the stairway that leads to it. They began to chant, "We want Boyer," and Boyer came out. Then Brock, then Flood, then White. They called for every player, and each took a bow. They called for Keane, and he stood and took off his cap. McCarver appeared in his Tom Werewolf mask, and Sadecki came on as Joe Quasimodo.